As many food writers have noted, fried clams are to New England as barbecue is to the South. You’ll find this classic summer favorite served at small, roadside shacks in Maine’s coastal villages––and inland, too––often with long lines of fried clam-lovers waiting in anticipation.
So where do you go for great fried clams? That question is sure to start an argument if posed to seafood aficionados in Maine. The answer depends on a number of factors, including whether you prefer your clams fried in crumbs or batter, whole (with bellies) or strips, with necks or without, and served in buns or boxes. All Maine fried clams begin the same way, with soft-shell clams that are hand-harvested along the coast. They are shucked, dipped, coated, deep-fried and served with lemon and tartar sauce at humble clam shacks and fancy seafood restaurants. They are the classic, summer food––and every Mainer has a favorite spot.
A good place to sample different approaches to this iconic food is the Yarmouth Clam Festival, held on the third weekend in July in the Greater Portland village of Yarmouth. You can watch a clam-shucking contest while enjoying a freshly fried bucketful in crumbs or batter.
You could also make a summer pilgrimage along the coast to search out your own “great place to go for fried clams.” Here are a few places to start: